Customer Reviews for

Brooklyn

Average Rating 3.5
( 154 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(29)

4 Star

(52)

3 Star

(35)

2 Star

(26)

1 Star

(12)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

17 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

Touching and Hard to Forget

This Colm Toibin novel is one of the best books I have ever read. I love the delicate, thoughtful prose. The dialogue - such a hard thing for most writers to pull off - feels very real, too, as does the depiction of the immigrant experience. Slowly, patiently, and very ...
This Colm Toibin novel is one of the best books I have ever read. I love the delicate, thoughtful prose. The dialogue - such a hard thing for most writers to pull off - feels very real, too, as does the depiction of the immigrant experience. Slowly, patiently, and very deliberately, Toibin drew me in by narrating from protagonist Eilis' point of view and even reviewing previously-described events from Eilis' perspective. I was lulled into that state you may associate with a good movie: as you become attached to the characters, your stake in a particular sort of ending increases. And herein lies Toibin's skill: he drew me in *twice* -- tricked me with no trickery -- such that his quietly-worded ending delivered me an indescribably powerful punch. Unbelievable.

posted by MJinPA on May 5, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

Oversimplified and not enough plot

This is a simple and gentle story about a young woman's immigration to New York from Ireland in the years after WWII. Much of the novel contains her personal thoughts and her analyzing her future and decisions and life in general. It has an easy pace with lots of desc...
This is a simple and gentle story about a young woman's immigration to New York from Ireland in the years after WWII. Much of the novel contains her personal thoughts and her analyzing her future and decisions and life in general. It has an easy pace with lots of descriptive elements and a vast array of characters.

I really wanted to love this book, but it just seemed oversimplified. I think virtually anyone could have thought up the plot if they were given the basic elements (girl alone in big city, first real job, meeting new people, family crisis). In fact, at one point it felt like an After School Special.

While Toibin depicts the female brain very well in some areas, there are other things that don't ring true. For example, other than her work and classes, the main character seems to have no curiousity about the world in general, or about the exciting new country she has come to. In subjects such as racism and the Holocaust, not only does she know nothing but she has no interest in learning more. And while we hear much of her thoughts, some subjects she doesn't even visit mentally: when her female boss makes a sexual pass at her, she feels uncomfortable but never ponders it again. Yet she ponders so much more trivial stuff all the time throughout the book (what to wear or where to eat)
.
Additionally, while there are some tragic events, overall there doesn't seem to be enough conflict to make the story interesting. All the other characters are almost too good to be true, some crusty or cranky but all of them (excepting Miss Kelly) are big hearted and generous. Money is never really an issue, and things go amazingly smooth for such a huge life change. Again, that seems incredibly unrealistic. And the strange behavior of her fiance's moodiness, her mother's unpleasantness, and her landlady's suspicions are never really explored.

I intend to read more of his work (I have ordered the Blackwater Lightship) and I hope things become a bit more complex and realistic.

posted by SAHARATEA on January 2, 2010

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 155 Customer Reviews
Page 1 of 8
  • Posted May 5, 2010

    Touching and Hard to Forget

    This Colm Toibin novel is one of the best books I have ever read. I love the delicate, thoughtful prose. The dialogue - such a hard thing for most writers to pull off - feels very real, too, as does the depiction of the immigrant experience. Slowly, patiently, and very deliberately, Toibin drew me in by narrating from protagonist Eilis' point of view and even reviewing previously-described events from Eilis' perspective. I was lulled into that state you may associate with a good movie: as you become attached to the characters, your stake in a particular sort of ending increases. And herein lies Toibin's skill: he drew me in *twice* -- tricked me with no trickery -- such that his quietly-worded ending delivered me an indescribably powerful punch. Unbelievable.

    17 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Oversimplified and not enough plot

    This is a simple and gentle story about a young woman's immigration to New York from Ireland in the years after WWII. Much of the novel contains her personal thoughts and her analyzing her future and decisions and life in general. It has an easy pace with lots of descriptive elements and a vast array of characters.

    I really wanted to love this book, but it just seemed oversimplified. I think virtually anyone could have thought up the plot if they were given the basic elements (girl alone in big city, first real job, meeting new people, family crisis). In fact, at one point it felt like an After School Special.

    While Toibin depicts the female brain very well in some areas, there are other things that don't ring true. For example, other than her work and classes, the main character seems to have no curiousity about the world in general, or about the exciting new country she has come to. In subjects such as racism and the Holocaust, not only does she know nothing but she has no interest in learning more. And while we hear much of her thoughts, some subjects she doesn't even visit mentally: when her female boss makes a sexual pass at her, she feels uncomfortable but never ponders it again. Yet she ponders so much more trivial stuff all the time throughout the book (what to wear or where to eat)
    .
    Additionally, while there are some tragic events, overall there doesn't seem to be enough conflict to make the story interesting. All the other characters are almost too good to be true, some crusty or cranky but all of them (excepting Miss Kelly) are big hearted and generous. Money is never really an issue, and things go amazingly smooth for such a huge life change. Again, that seems incredibly unrealistic. And the strange behavior of her fiance's moodiness, her mother's unpleasantness, and her landlady's suspicions are never really explored.

    I intend to read more of his work (I have ordered the Blackwater Lightship) and I hope things become a bit more complex and realistic.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 12, 2009

    Bewildering

    I have to laugh a little as I write this review. I liked the book, enjoyed reading it, but still do now know why. Maybe this is what a good writer can do. Write on seemingly nothing and make it seem like something. The time and places (Ireland and Brooklyn) were not particularly interesting nor were the characters. None of them really did anything special except live their daily lives which were not interesting either. There you have it.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2010

    A lovely story

    I enjoyed "Brooklyn" a great deal. The character of Eilis was complex in personality; the story was well-written and it drew me in. The ending was not quite what I expected (a good thing!) The cultural issues of post-WWII Ireland and the US rang true as well. A lovely read!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2010

    Moving Immigration Story

    Brooklyn is a quietly gripping story of a young woman finding her way through the challenges to her identity brought by an unchosen immigration from Ireland. Loss, uncertainty, the personal task of building a meaningful life in unfamiliar circumstances are managed with little guidance beyond her personal reflection - portrayed elegantly and believably by Toibin. The author's compassion for all of the characters gives this personal tale a sense of privileged peeking into the rich interior life of people who worked to live a life they themselves could respect.
    Also, Toibin crafted the story such that surprise can catch you as you look back at Ireland from the cold streets of Brooklyn.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2012

    Nothing Exrtraordinary, but still a well writtten novel

    I agree with others that this novel was a bit drawnout. It was a nice story but it took too long to tell in my honest opinion. It left me wanting just a little more. Read this after you finish the other books on your list.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2012

    Colm is a very good writer but this is a little tedious in place

    Colm is a very good writer but this is a little tedious in places. Interesting details but if he were a woman, this would be classified and mrketed as chicklit

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2012

    Another story of the Irish diaspora

    This is the story of a young Irish woman who emigrates to Brooklyn where she find a job and then marries a man who is not Irish. She travels to Ireland for a visit, considers staying there but ultimately realizes what she must do.

    This book is full of personalities - the village residents, the mother, the sister, and the boys. There are surprises and twists and turns. It's a satisfying read, especially for those fascinated by immigrant stories.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2011

    Brooklyn

    Interesting story and very well-written. It was a fast read that kept my attention til the last page.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Excellent

    Descriptions here of the emotional life at once supremely tender and unsentimental. The work of a masterful hand.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Brooklyn? Really?

    There really wasn't much about Brooklyn in this novel, at least not enough for it to merit the title. As it is, it is a love story about an immigrant girl who enjoys her new home in America, but then is forced to return to Ireland after a death in the family. What I liked about the book stopped at this point and unnecessary confusion reigned from that point on. Little of what happened in Ireland made sense given what had preceded it. Other than some location material, and Dodger talk, if you come to this book expecting to revisit Fulton Street and an older Brooklyn, there is no nostalgia here as Brooklyn is but a minor character.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2011

    Good Read

    I did enjoy this book. Although it seemed to me that the author couldn't decide what direction he wanted Eilis to go (as far as her character went) but nevertheless I enjoyed it and would read it again a few years.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2010

    A short story turned into a novel.

    "Brooklyn" gives the impression of being a good short story expanded into a dull novel. The first half of the book is merely a drawn out, rigidly chronological setting up of the second half. The characters are thinly drawn. Even the main character, the very passive Eilis, from whose point of view the story is told, remains a cipher who sort of sleepwalks into situations. The scenes of Ireland in the 1950s are the strongest part of the novel. This book is an easy read. So much so that at times it seems like something more suitable for the YA market. I am perplexed at the critical praise this novel received.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2010

    I want more.

    I picked up this book knowing what a great writer Colm Toibin is but upon reading I am disappointed. The story is very readable and the characters settings and history real yet so lightly dealt with. Through the eyes of the main character Eilis we see her small Irish town, its way of life and inhabitants including her mother, sister, girlfriends and employer. She then is sent to Brooklyn and again we are shown her life of work, night classes, church dances, boarding house, friends, and "romance" but nothing really strikes deep. Things happen, people come and go and Eilis seems in a fog. I was rather insulted that Toibin wrote her as how else can I say it, stupid. I know an immigrant woman's choices were limited in that time period but this girl had no personality or interests. She just went with the flow in a deliberate almost plodding way.
    I think what bothers me most is that there is so much that could have been dealt with and wasn't. Background about her professor, landlady, priest, sister, mother and even the homeless singer would have made this a meaty book of personalities, cultures and age to get into.
    They say less is more but in this book for me, it just wasn't enough.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2010

    Gently draws the reader in....

    "Colm Toibin's "Brooklyn" gently draws the reader into the life of a young Irish girl, Eilis Lacey. There is little work in post World War II Ireland. Her two older brothers had previously been forced to move to England to find work and due to the encouragement of her beloved older sister, Rose, and the sponsorship of a visiting priest from America, Eilis leaves the home she shares with Rose and their widowed mother and travels from a small town in Ireland to seek employment in Brooklyn. What I found most interesting was Eilis' gradual immersion into life in America, which was so different from the life she left behind. Brooklyn truly proves to be the land of opportunity for Eilis. She lives in a boarding house owned by an Irishwoman, finds work at a local department store and attends classes in bookkeeping at night. She meets a young Italian man, Tony, who introduces her to more of life in America. When a tragedy forces her to return to Ireland, she has to decide where her future lies. So much more than just the story of a young immigrant girl becoming an independent woman, Brooklyn itself, and the complexity, diversity and opportunity found there almost seems to be a character in the book."

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    Angela's Ashes does Ireland better

    Bland. The stoicism of the characters was reflected in the writing. I found it hard to find any connection to the characters, hard to follow Eilis' emotions and felt her constant desire to be alone might have been a mental issue. The story itself has been done before, numerous times. I think it's done better when the reader can sympathize with the new immigrant's struggle. It was a decent story that may start a good book club conversation, but I wouldn't recommend it to Jane Doe looking for a book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    Could care less

    Although the plot was original, and the writing craftsman-like, I couldn't care about any of the characters, or what happened to them. So the novel ultimately fails its most important test: making the reader relate to the characters.

    I don't recommend this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    ?

    Not sure what all the hype is about. I found the characters dry and one sided. There were many characters brought in for a very small amount of time that didn't seem to have purpose.
    The city of Chicago, IL chose it as their ONE city ONE read book for 2010 and I was highly disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2010

    Sorely Disappointing

    I am not at all a fan of this book, disappointing considering the reviews on the author. The writing style was fine, however the plot was fairly uninteresting, the main character impossibly naive, drab and without a much of a mind of her own... she is molested by another woman and once the situation is over, she thinks nothing more of it; she has also never heard of the Halocaust. This is not a "cute" innocence but rather completly frustrating. The ending wraps up too quickly and will leave you unsatisfied. My book club chose this book and another book by an Irish author as we suspected they might pair well together and this one received low reviews from us all, mainly for the reasons above.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2010

    Brooklyn

    I absolutely loved this book. The characters and settings were so true to that era. Although I did not come from another country, I moved from another state to Chicago at about the same age, so I could identify with many of the things Eilis was feeling.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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